Military attacks NHS over ‘appalling’ handling of PPE crisis: Army blasts ‘knackered’ logistics, ‘failure’ to ration kit and says it is on hand and ready to lead – but has not been asked
- RAF plane carrying PPE from Turkey landed in UK in early hours of this morning
- But government is under pressure to source more of the vital kit for the NHS
- Army sources have heavily criticised the NHS’s distribution of the equipment
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
NHS bosses are under pressure today after military staff attacked the health service for the way it has been distributing vital PPE equipment during the coronavirus crisis.
Military personnel accused the NHS of ‘appalling’ handling of the issue with the army apparently pushing to be given a more prominent role in making sure the kit gets to where it needs to go.
They claimed NHS logistics were ‘knackered’ and questioned why certain key items were not being rationed.
It came as an RAF plane carrying a PPE shipment from Turkey finally arrived back in the UK in the early hours of this morning.
Flight tracker RadarBox showed the Airbus A400-M registered ZM416 depart Istanbul and land just after 3.30am at RAF Brize Norton.
The plane had been dispatched from the Oxfordshire base, where two other planes are on stand-by to pick up further kit from Turkey, late on Monday.
It is not yet known if the consignment, which was ordered last Thursday and originally due to arrive on Sunday, includes 400,000 badly-needed surgical gowns.
An RAF cargo plane arrived back from Turkey at RAF Brize Norton this morning with a cargo of PPE equipment
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is under pressure after military personnel labelled the current NHS distribution of PPE ‘appalling’
The supply of gowns has emerged as one of the key issues of the current crisis with the government scrambling to source as many as possible from all over the world.
But today ministers face claims that they have been slow to talk to domestic manufacturers who have offered to convert their production lines to make the equipment.
Military planners who are experts in logistics were sent out to different parts of the country by the Ministry of Defence in the early stages of the outbreak to help ensure vital supplies were appropriately and swiftly allocated.
But military sources have suggested that the NHS distribution network has seen PPE being sent to hospitals without fully taking into account need.
That has meant some hospitals have ended up with more than they need while others have been left with a shortage.
A senior army source told The Times: ‘We know how knackered their [NHS logistics] systems are, but we’ve been surprised we’ve not been called in to help more, and we’ve been surprised by their failure to ration [kit].’
Military commanders are thought to be frustrated that the so-called Covid Support Force which can call on 10,000 personnel and has planning expertise has not been put in charge of PPE distribution.
The arrival of the RAF plane back from Turkey will be a welcome piece of news for ministers as they struggle to boost supply of PPE.
But they are facing domestic criticism after manufacturers suggested conversations with Whitehall about ramping up production of items like gowns in the UK only started in the last two weeks.
Adam Mansell, head of the UK Fashion and Textile Association, said: ‘We have started probably four weeks later than we should have.’
Some companies have claimed offers were made to convert to making the kit for the NHS but they faced long waits for a reply from the government.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘The MoD understands just how challenging logistics can be, especially under current pressures.
‘Of course there may be frictions at a local level, but those same armed forces are doing everything possible to support their health colleagues. The MoD has full confidence in the NHS.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday at the daily Downing Street press conference that 8,331 companies had come forward with offers of PPE – some of which had led to ‘very large-scale’ purchases.
‘I am very grateful to all of those who have come forward and we are now actively engaged with hundreds of these companies,’ he said.
‘I can announce that we are working with 159 potential UK manufacturers which are starting to come on stream.’
Mr Hancock said the government needed to carefully consider all of the offers made to make sure firms can actually deliver on what they have promised.
‘We have had some offers, for instance, that have come from companies where, upon investigation, the company has only just been formed in the previous day or two before coming and asking for a cash deal with the government,’ he said.
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